Missoula native and star U.S. aerial skier Eric "Bergy" Bergoust tried settling in at home the past four years. He spent two seasons training national level athletes at Snowbowl and coaching with the Missoula Freestyle Ski Team. He planned to get involved with Missoula in Motion and the Missoula Community Food Co-op, and even hoped to start a biofuels cooperative.
But in the end, the sport that won him an Olympic gold medal and two World Cup podiums kept calling.
"I missed aerials," Bergoust says. "I wasn't really fulfilled, and it was starting to show."
Now Bergoust, who retired from competition in 2006, is living three weeks a month in a dorm room in the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, N. Y.—more than 2,400 miles from his wife, Sally Jo Beck, and their two-year-old daughter, Lucia. The U.S. Ski Team announced Sept. 30 that it appointed Bergoust as its new freestyle elite aerials assistant coach. And while he came a bit late to the summer training game, he's lost no time in bringing his years of experience to bear for the eight young athletes under his charge.
"When I tell them to do something like drop your left arm more in front, I don't want to just teach them to do that and tell them to do that without telling them why and how it works," says Bergoust, who helped train several elite aerials skiers including three-time Olympian Jeret "Speedy" Peterson. "It's something most aerialists don't know, the physics behind our sport."
Bergoust acknowledges he's overqualified for the position. But he took the job when his good friend, recently appointed head aerial coach Todd Ossian, couldn't find another suitable candidate. Bergoust has since swapped his Missoula-based dreams—including building an aerials training center—for the chance to help incubate future U.S. Ski Team talent.
"China has hundreds of kids trying to get on a team of five," Bergoust says. "We have, right now, about 10 kids trying to get on a team of eight."
But as fulfilled as Bergoust already feels, there's still something in Missoula that aerials coaching can't offer.
"It's tough feeling like I'm missing my daughter growing up," Bergoust says. "She's just changing so fast right now and every time I hear her on the phone she's got new words."